The Homecoming Party - Carmine Abate, Antony Shugaar NO SPOILERS!!!

I am having a hard time deciding whether to give this four of five stars..... It was truly lovely. You walk away from the book happy b/c you have met some really kind, nice, compassionate and yet perfectly NORMAL people. The story is soothing. You spend all of your time chuckling. I will try and explain.

The book is about a family that lives in an Albanian village in southern Italy. The author comes from Calabria. He knows the milieu and the traditions he is describing. He grew up there, and you feel this. I hadn't known that there are several Albanian villages in southern Italy, but that is not so surprising b/c Albania is just on the other side of the Adriatic Sea! There is quite a bit of Albanian text, but all is translated. Thank goodness! The story is about one family in the small village called Hora. The problem, well one of them, is that there are few employment possibilities. You simply cannot provide for a family with the pay from those jobs that are available. So the father spends months every year working in a coal mine, or building roads, most often in France. These are hard labor jobs, and he works his butt off! The oldest daughter, Elisa, is at college. Then there is Marco, the son is 10. This book is a coming-of-age story about him and really his older sister Elisa too. La Piccola is the youngest daughter. It is Marco and his father who alternately tell the story. When the father speaks it is always at the Christmas bonfire, the most important event of the Christmas season in the village. The father always returns before Christmas, always laden with splendid toys, always playing a pivotal position in the village festivities, and he always he takes every opportunity to be with his kids. He is a great father. OK, he is gone most of the time but when he is home he is the central figure. All the kids adore him. You see it and feel it and end up loving this little family. But you also see the hardships caused by the need for this father to be out of the country for months on end due to the lack of sufficient employment. When he must leave not only the kids and the mother are torn, but so is the reader. His experiences in a coal mine are vividly depicted. I do not want to work in a coal mine. Never has such been made so real to me.

But there is more. This is a family. As in all families, where we love each other, we get emotionally ripped up over issues and then arguments EXPLODE! You have this here too. And you have sorrow. You have sexual awakening. You have the weight of learning to keep a promise. Yes, everything that we all experience are in this teeny little book of 171 pages. Oh, and there is a dog, Spertina!!! God I love Spertina. The things that happen, the things she does.....

I have saved the best for last. The writing is gorgeous. You smile, you chuckle. Yes, on every single page. Some lines are exquisite. Some are funny. Some are profound.

Here is a quote from page 24:

"'This is the soccer ball my father brought me all the way from France, it's only for me, go away,' I said to Nicolino, to Mario, to Pepè, and to Vittorio. 'But just smell that leather.' And when they drew near, I held the ball high over my head, and repeated:'Ecni Këté', go away!' Spertina barked and barked, out of her mind with joy; she'd taken a position at my feet as if to defend me from the attacks of the other children, but not from my father, who ran straight toward me, lifted me up in his arms and threw me into the air, along with the soccer ball."

Page 38: "Wild boars are real bastards, as dangerous as wanted criminals."

Page 39: "The future for a child is an empty word. I wanted to be close to my father every day of my present life. Always."

Page 52: One afternoon the heat was intolerable. At first we had decided to play soccer with my leather ball in the little slivers of shade in the lanes. Usually, I battled like a lunatic to score a point in these games and, if it looked like I wouldn't win, I'd end the game in my own way. I'd grab my soccer ball and run home with it."

The people in this family are no better, no worse than you or I. They are just like us. They are fumbling along, doing good things and also making mistakes.

I simply must give this book five star. The writing is fantastic. I am immediately going to add [b:Between Two Seas|2451656|Between Two Seas|Carmine Abate||2458850]. I must read more by this author. I will not be waiting around to buy this one. I should not be buying another book, but I MUST.